Native to Europe, Africa and Asia, Adonis is a genus in the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, that also includes anemone, delphinium, and hellebore. There are about twenty species but only a few that are considered garden-worthy. The erect plants are herbaceous perennials or annuals and have finely dissected, light green leaves, and flowers with white, yellow, orange or red petals. The perennials need about six weeks of temperatures below 40 F for the rhizomes to break dormancy in spring and go dormant again by mid-summer. Plants are suitable for rock gardens or front of the border, and should be massed for a good floral display. Not fussy about soil, plants need full sun with afternoon shade in the South. Slugs can be a problem. Propagate by seed (annuals and perennials) or division (perennials) in spring after the foliage has died down.
Pheasant’s Eye (Adonis amurensis)
This native of Japan and Manchuria has many branched stems bearing three to six inch long triangular leaves that are ternately compound. The flowers appear singly in spring and are two inches across with twenty to fifty petals each. Although usually yellow, the petals may be white, rose, or have red stripes. Pheasant’s eye is the earliest of the genus to bloom, sometimes as early as February. Good cultivars are ‘Flora-plena a double form, and ‘Fukuju Kai’, the earliest variety to bloom.
Size: 9-12” H x 12” W
Flower Color: Usually yellow, but may be rose, white, or with red stripes
Bloom Time: Early spring
Hardiness: Zones 4-7
Spring Adonis (A. vernalis)The unbranched stems of this European native carry highly dissected, fern-like, sessile leaves one to two inches long. The butter yellow flowers are two to three inches across, have ten to fifteen petals, and open flat.
Size: 12-15” H x 12” W
Flower Color: Butter yellow
Bloom Time: Spring (three to six weeks after A. amurensis)
Hardiness: Zones 4-7 (zone 3 with protection)
Autumn Adonis (A. annua)
Native to North Africa, western Asia, and Europe, autumn Adonis is an annual with branching stems, finely dissected sessile leaves, and one inch wide flowers with five to ten scarlet petals often with dark centers.
Size: 10” H x 8-10” W
Flower Color: Scarlet often with dark centers
Bloom Time: Late spring to early summer
Hardiness: Not applicable